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No. 7: June 1979

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The Moon And Life

There are so many examples of lunar rhythms in terrestrial life that we tend to assume that these phenomena are understood. Obviously, evolution "created" these rhythms to further the cause of each moon-tuned organism. Palmer and Goodenough recount the classic example of the lunar synchronism of the palolo worm and add the even-more-amazing tale of P. megalops, another marine worm. Sure enough, the moon-modulated matings of these worms seem to improve reproductive efficiency.

Less well known are many other moon-synchronous biological rhythms; viz., the sizes of the pits dug by ant lions to trap ants and the angles flatworms assume in swimming away from light. Many such lunar rhythms apparently have no adaptive value whatsoever. So, why do they exist? Even more disconcerting is the fact that lunar rhythms persist in the lab where the moon is not visible. Are internal clocks responsible here? If so, how do they work and how are they set? These questions are hard to answer if the rhythms have no value to the organism's success.

(Palmer, John D., and Goodenough, Judith E.; "Mysterious Monthly Rhythms," Natural History, 87:64, December 1978.)

Comment. It would, or course, be outright heresy to suggest that heavenly bodies may be the sources of unrecognized but biologically significant forces.

Reference. Correlations of lunar phase and disturbed human behavior are cataloged at BHB4 in: Biological Anomalies: Humans I. Further information on this book is located at: here.

From Science Frontiers #7, June 1979. 1979-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987